Winter is the best season for the Incline. While some shudder at the prospect of bundling up in the bitter cold, for some sadistic reason I head out to the steps whenever I can in cold weather. Why? Traffic counts are lower, and the snow and ice covering the ties present additional obstacles to negotiate. If you play your cards right, the Incline can be a great and diverse workout all winter long. Here’s how.
The free shuttle runs to within a couple hundred yards of the first tie. While convenient, it sometimes robs Incliners of a proper warmup. Whether you take the free shuttle or run or hike up Ruxton Avenue, take 10 to 20 minutes of easy running or hiking to warm up properly. If you are crunched for time, go slower on the “flatter” initial part of the Incline as your warmup.
Get a Grip
Traction on ice- and snow-covered ties is important. I’ve witnessed countless Incliners hopelessly fall and flail due to poor traction on their feet. Don’t be that person who has to have Search and Rescue come pull you off on a sled. Screw shoes, Microspikes and Yaktrax are all good options to provide traction while climbing the steps and during the descent down Barr Trail.
One of the most challenging things about winter Inclining is the temperature change from start to finish. Ruxton Avenue is an icebox. The ascent usually feels relatively warm as you generate body heat. Then the trip back down Barr Trail can be frigid as moisture from the ascent either evaporates or freezes to your clothes; either way, you lose body heat.
Think about your clothing choices in these three stages. You want layers that will keep you warm before you hit the stairs, something you can peel off as you generate more heat, and something you can put back on for the cooler descent. A base layer with a light jacket makes for a good combination; you can take off and put on the jacket as needed. Many people also bring an extra hat to put on at the top.
Bottom line: Don’t let the cold, ice and snow keep you off of the Incline! A good warmup, the right footwear and versatile clothes can make the Incline a year-round workout.
Run some and hike some. If you want to improve your time, try running some of the flatter sections. It takes some effort and coordination. Stick with it, and you’ll find yourself running longer and longer sections.